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Playboy Profile: Manny Pacquiao
  • October 16, 2011 : 20:10
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So would more than 1.3 million others. Despite going up against a Lady Gaga HBO special, Pacquiao vs. Mosley would be one of the top pay-per-view fights of all time. (One holdout was Mayweather, who tweeted his 1.2 million followers, “Everyone watch Lady Gaga tonight.”) Pacquiao’s latest tilt at the MGM Grand had Vegas buzzing with boxing fans, gamblers and celebs, including the newest member of the champ’s entourage, Paris Hilton. “Pacquiao kicked his A$$,” she tweeted after his $22 million victory over Miguel Cotto. The stakes were higher tonight, with the champion getting at least $30 million. “The fighting congressman,” ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. said, introducing “the pride of the Philippines, Mannn-ny ‘Pacman’ Pac…qui….owwww!” After LL Cool J lip-synched “Mama Said Knock You Out” and Jamie Foxx sang a very Vegas “America the Beautiful,” air-­punching “amber waves” and “fruited plain” like Tom Jones, the boxers tapped gloves in a customary show of prefight sportsmanship. The champion’s gloves had been sprinkled with holy water. That morning, per Pacquiao tradition, he had rented a Vegas ballroom and hosted a Mass for himself, family and hundreds of fans. A priest blessed his gloves, his trunks, even the protective cup he wore under his trunks.

Mosley’s gloves, unblessed, were black. Pacquiao wore canary-yellow gloves to symbolize, he said, “my hope to end poverty.”

Ringside fans thought the other guy looked yellow. “Mosley, throw a punch!” one yelled. Instead the challenger reached out to tap gloves with Pacquiao at the bell and again at the start of the next round and whenever the referee broke up a clinch. Mosley backpedaled. In the third, Pacquiao decked the challenger with a canary-quick left. His power shocked Mosley. So did his speed. Nothing Mosley had seen on tape prepared him for this alien coming at him so fucking fast from six angles at once. He spent the next few rounds backing up, covering up, trying not to get knocked out. A leg cramp slowed ­Pacquiao in the fourth, but ­Mosley made no move to punch him. Instead he tapped gloves again. Now the crowd was booing.

“Quitter!” somebody shouted. “You puss!” Which Paris might tweet “pu$$,” since Mosley would collect $5 million for his so-called effort. The JumboTron over the ring showed a giant Jinkee pressing her million-carat diamond to a plump upper lip, but boxing’s first lady had nothing to worry about. Her man, powered by eight weeks of nonstop training, was in command. Mosley reportedly wanted to quit during the 10th round. He said he had a blister on the bottom of his foot, presumably near the puddle that remained of his courage.

Manny PacquiaoAfter the most one-sided decision in recent boxing history, the champ shrugged. “What am I going to do if my opponent doesn’t want to fight? It’s not my fault.” Then he, Jinkee and their Filipino crew went out to celebrate. Paris Hilton tweeted, “Pac-Man is an incredible fighter! Wow…Manny & his wife Jinkee. Love them :)” The neon city pounded with music, dance steps, laser light and Jäger shots while the bout’s few highlights ran over and over on a thousand monitors, ESPN pundits wondering why men like Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather kept avoiding Pacquiao inside the ring and out. After all, Mosley and Mayweather weren’t defenseless kittens. They’d collected a dozen world titles in eight weight classes. Both had held the unofficial title Pacquiao now owns: best pound-for-pound fighter alive. The unbeaten Mayweather might still be the best technical boxer of his time: best defense, best footwork, best counterpunch. Even after losing to Pacquiao and admitting he was awed by Pacquiao’s power, Mosley said Mayweather might be “technically better.”

So why would Money Mayweather spend two years ducking Pacquiao? Why not money up for the fight of the century?

Maybe because boxers have spies. They have flunkies, gofers, managers, agents and subagents, trainers and ex-trainers, masseurs and masseuses and old sparring partners, all sending gossip from the other guy’s camp. And what Mayweather has heard from Camp Pacquiao can only worry him, because the more you find out about the short stick of dynamite from GenSan City, the more superhuman he seems.

Running uphill with his Bruce Lee bangs bobbing up and down on his forehead, he doesn’t look so tough. At five-seven the champ is half an inch shorter than Lee was. That’s not so much taller than another deadly shrimp he resembles, Charles Manson, but despite his helter-skelter style in the ring, Pacquiao’s no killer. During the Margarito bout last year at Cowboys Stadium, he rained 474 blows on the taller, heavier Tijuana Tornado, punched a hole in Margarito’s cheek, smushed his nose into chili burger and broke the orbital bone over his eye. He might have done worse but held back because he had the fight won.

“Finish him off!” Roach yelled between rounds.

Pacquiao shook his head. “No,” he said. “Boxing isn’t killing each other. I beat him up enough.”

Today he’s in Baguio City, a cramped, bustling town of 300,000 in the misted green Cordillera mountains northwest of Manila. Baguio is a thousand twisting alleys under buzzing power lines and laundry lines hung with colorful shirts and skirts. To get here from the capital, you bump along in a jeepney on cratered hillside roads for six and a half hours—or join Pacquiao for a 28-minute zip in the governor’s private jet.

Pacquiao attends morning Mass, then jogs toward heaven to begin another 7,000-calorie training day. Every step of his 10-mile run is uphill, into the mountains. Still he’s sprinting at the end. Roach hired an Olympic marathoner to pace him, but the boxer often outruns the runner. After roadwork he relaxes—his resting heart rate is a tortoise-like 42 beats per minute—then works out and spars.

Team Pacquiao’s base in Baguio is the Cooyeesan Hotel Plaza, a multicolored hulk strewn with phone and TV wires. There’s a dark, drippy Blade Runner aspect to the place, a crumbling, once-palatial hotel that now serves largely as a dorm for Koreans who come here, of all places, to study English. You follow the dueling beats of Korean and Philippine music down long, dim halls rank with cooking smells to a gym, where the music gives way to the popcorn sounds of boxing gloves hitting punching bags. The champ’s workouts are local events, with stooped old men, schoolboys and schoolgirls clustered around the ring. Pacquiao’s punches are a blur; the sound of a left smacking one of Roach’s practice mitts makes a little girl jump. Roach wears a chest protector as thick as a gym mat. Still he winces at a couple of his fighter’s body shots. One punch knocks a mitt off his hand. Roach watches the mitt fly out of the ring, then blinks and turns his focus back to Pacquiao—and his visual field fills up with the champ’s fist. Pacquiao pulls the punch just short of the trainer’s nose. Then he grins. “Ha!”

His maniac workouts impress other champions. After Tyson watched one of Pacquiao’s sparring sessions, he told Roach, “Freddie, you should slow that guy down.”

“Mike, that was slow for him,” said Roach. The trainer has spiced up past sessions by offering sparring partners $100 for each time they hit Pacquiao hard, but Pacman is too quick, too strong, seemingly immune to fatigue. After sparring partner Shawn ­Porter caught him with a $100 punch, Pacquiao instantly knocked Porter off his feet.

Other boxers take 60-second breaks between sparring rounds, replicating the three-minutes-on, one-minute-off pace of a bout. Pacquiao often skips the breaks. He spars to the bell, takes a breath and resumes, often a dozen rounds or more at a stretch. In eight weeks of training he’ll spar more than 1,400 rounds. His workouts continue with sessions on the heavy bag and the speed bag and 10 to 15 minutes of high-speed rope skipping followed by weight lifting, countless crunches and, in one legendary instance, a demanding abs-building routine: letting a friend smack him in the stomach with a bamboo stick.

After one of six daily meals—chicken, rice, eggs, beans, beef broth and a protein shake—he’ll play full-court basketball for a couple of hours. Pacquiao calls himself a point guard but plays more like Ray Allen than Rajon Rondo—if Allen owned the team and shot like there was always 00:01 on the clock. His proudest moment was winning a game with a buzzer-beating three-pointer. Nobody had the heart to tell him that the other team let him shoot. An unwritten rule of Philippine hoops prohibits guarding the National Fist.

Or disturbing his sleep. The night-owl champ likes to nap between workouts, sometimes for two or three hours. He slips into bed in an apartment upstairs from the gym, a bodyguard shuts the door and everyone tiptoes around until Pacman wakes. Roach waits as patiently as the rest of them, sitting in a folding chair at the corner of the ring. The trainer avoids most of the pomp and voodoo surrounding his fighter. He’s been around enough champions to know how polluted the air around them can get as the money, the fawning flunkies and the tangy, willing women lead them down the garden path to hell. Roach watched Tyson’s posse grow into a small army of groupies and goons. “It got to where I wouldn’t even go in Mike’s house. The guys around him…” he says, shaking his head. “No thanks.” Tyson has mellowed since then—he hugs and kisses the homing pigeons he raises. (“They don’t have a mating season,” Tyson told Roach. “They’re like humans; they fuck all the time.”) Some say the new, nicer Iron Mike is chemically enhanced. “They finally got Mike’s meds right,” an insider says. But Roach thinks Tyson’s shrinking entourage was a factor, too. It’s hard to be human when everyone around you treats you like a god.

Roach checks his watch. Shakes his head. Watching a bodyguard approach the champ’s door, he whispers, “Shhh!” He knows he’s a supporting actor in a farce, one of a hundred-plus people waiting for a grown man to wake up from his nap.

So why not go wake him up?

Roach laughs. “You go wake him up,” he says. Roach is a four-time trainer of the year with 25 world champions to his credit, but Pacquiao is his meal ticket. They began as mentor and student, “but it’s more like equals now. Pacquiao’s smart, dedicated. He’s made himself so much ­better—a more complete fighter.” He knows it sounds corny, but watching his fighter grow into a world champion and potential world leader has been “kinda inspiring.” Sure, Pacquiao enjoyed his wealth, fame and comfort, but at least he brought another purpose to the ring.

“Aside from the bullshit around him, he’s centered,” Roach says. “The idea that he represents his people, that he’s on a ­mission…it’s not bullshit. That’s really him.”

At last Pacquiao pads out of his nap room. He shakes my hand and sits perfectly still for another of our talks, listening closely, answering questions in his usual sincere, boring fashion. Then he thanks me for my time. I’m thinking, champ makes modern sports history—thanks sportswriter.

About 3,500 calories later, his day ends. Manny and Jinkee head to bed a little after two a.m. To sleep. No sex—he and Roach have agreed there will be no sex for the next couple of weeks. Believing the old adage that sex saps strength, Pacquiao follows a strict no-Jinkee policy during training. “We’ve talked to doctors about it,” Roach says. “Sex lowers your testosterone, so you’re not as mean.” Most boxers abstain for a week or more before a bout. “I ask my guys for 10 days,” Roach says. Of course Pacquiao beats the others even when it comes to abstinence. He stays chaste for 21 days before a bout, husbanding his energies for postfight festivities. And with that policy, Roach says, “when a fighter wins, the couple is usually very happy that night.”

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read more: sports, magazine, interview, boxing, issue november 2011


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